3 tools to get things done

People often ask me “How do you get so much done?”. My answer is planning. I share my method of planning, and hopefully, it will answer the question and inspire you to get closer to your goals and dreams.

Writer / Malin Fabbri

3 tools to get things done: Journal, calendar and planner
3 tools to get things done: Journal, calendar and planner

This may be a little off-topic, but I get the question “How do you get so much done?” by you guys so frequently, I thought it is time to answer it. Sure, I am always busy. I have a job that pays bills, two teenagers, friends to see, articles and books to write and AlternativePhotography.com to run.

“It is no secret I like doing things… and it’s no secret I like to be busy!”

And, if you are wondering, yes, I do get most things I need to do done. I feel “my system” is working.

Over the years I have tried many things, PostIt notes on walls, ToDo lists, Bullet Journals, a huge whiteboard full of notes and scribbles – it was messy. I then went digital and used tools such as Trello, Monday and Asana, but they did not give me the overview I needed and felt very impersonal. I found myself always reverting to pen and paper. There are hundreds of preferences for planning and if you have a system that works for you, no need to change it! If you don’t, I share my method here and maybe you find inspiration. These are 3 tools that I use:

1A wall planner to get an overview of the year
Wall planner in Anna Atkins styleAt the beginning of the year, I start with a wall planner. On the planner, I add tasks and activities – mainly for my art and editorial activities. In January, it is usually pretty blank, but there are some regular activities I plan, such as the 8th of April, the birthday of AlternativePhotography.com, World Anthotype Day in August and World Cyanotype Day in September. The good thing about a wall calendar is that I can get an overview of events throughout the year. Events that need preparing months ahead of time, or an event that stretches over several months. I can also see if there are too many activities during a period or if it’s blank and I can plan something. I also make sure to cross out a few weeks for vacation. Very important to take a step back from time to time! During the year the wall planner will fill up and by the end of the year, it’s full. 

2A monthly calendar to get an overview of the month
12 beautiful cyanotypes illustrate the calendar.
In my kitchen, I have the monthly calendar. This I generally use for social activities such as birthdays, weddings, weekend trips or vacation breaks. I also add my teenager’s activities here such as soccer camp or school activities.
The calendar also helps me remember birthdays – birthdays seem to be my Achilles heel and I have been known to forget them. I love birthdays and think they are important, but I easily forget the date until it’s too late and I have to send an embarrassing “belated Happy Birthday card”. I always try to find a nice wall calendar since I will look at it every time I sit in the kitchen, In 2024 I will have the pleasure of cyanotype prints accompanying my monthly plans!

3A desk journal for day-to-day things
Anna Atkins tribute journal 2024 - Week starting MondayMy desk journal contains large plans and dreams as well as more detailed day-to-day activities. I start the year with a reflection by sketching out my long-term plans with things I want to work towards that may span over a longer time than a year – such as finding a place by the water with a BIG studio, which requires both saving up and house hunting, but it is one of my long term dreams. The journal helps me focus on the big picture.

I use the journal to sketch out my yearly plan and additional steps that will bring me closer to my dreams and goals. Here I focus on 4 areas; My Art, Work, Life & Home and Well-being & Health. Basically, most things my life consists of. I plan them yearly and break them down into monthly activities, that get broken down into weekly activities and last into daily actions.

  • Under Art I add things like experimenting with emulsions, creating a frame from driftwood or creating my next print.
  • Work is of course whatever happens in my work life, as well as my editorial work on AlternativePhotography.com such as publishing articles, replying to emails, finding a developer to help out, organising social media and such.
  • Life & Home can be things like taking a kid to the dentist as well as fixing a leaking pipe, but also fun stuff like planning a weekend break.
  • Under Wellbeing & Health ensures I also find time to exercise, go on hikes in nature and eat well – for me these activities also need planning or I don’t do enough of them.

When a month comes to an end, I also reflect and sometimes change or add to my yearly plan. I ask myself; Where do I want to be with my art? Am I working on the right things? What needs to be done around the house? Am I looking after myself or do I need to work on good habits? What gives me pleasure in life, and what do I really enjoy doing? It’s important to not just work and do practical things, but also plan social activities and fun. In this article I go a little deeper in how to use the journal.

I used to use blank journals, calendars and huge sheets of paper for this, but I found I spent an un-proportionally large amount of time drawing up structures on blank pages. This year I decided to tackle this and hopefully bring some tools – as well as inspirational art – to others. Highligting the work of Anna Atkins, giving talented cyanotype artists exposure and spreading the wonderful cyanotype process in the world, which is the purpose of the planner, calendar and journal is also a win-win. I, as well as you, now have 3 beautifully illustrated tools to use. Thank you again to all artists who contributed to this!

Hope you found this useful, do comment below with your tips!

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